Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Food in books / The crab, avocado and mayonnaise in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar



 ‘I’m biting the bullet and buying some crabmeat’ ... The summery salad from The Bell Jar, ready to be eaten. Photograph: Kate Young



Food in books: the crab, avocado and mayonnaise in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar


There’s more to Sylvia Plath’s classic novel than grey despair. Kate Young summons up a slice of summer from The Bell Jar – minus the food poisoning

By Kate Young for The Little Library Café, part of the Guardian Books Network

Kate Young
Thu 9 Jun 2016 17.00 BST

Arrayed on the Ladies’ Day banquet table were yellow-green avocado pear halves stuffed with crabmeat and mayonnaise, and platters of rare roast beef and cold chicken, and every so often a cut-glass bowl heaped with black caviar. I hadn’t had time to eat any breakfast at the hotel cafeteria that morning, except for a cup of overstewed coffee so bitter it made my nose curl, and I was starving.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath


I spent last weekend on the coast in Kent with my sister. I haven’t been to England’s east coast before, apart from what I once glimpsed from an overnight bus on a trip to Paris. I am only now aware of quite how much of an oversight this has been. This weekend, we took our time exploring woodlands, cliffs, beaches and winding country roads. We stayed in a B&B, stretching breakfasts out until they could be more accurately defined as lunch, taking long baths every evening and reading books – on recommendations after my recipe a fortnight ago I had more Barbara Pym to occupy my time.
On Saturday evening, we found ourselves in Whitstable, hovering outside Wheeler’s Oyster Bar. They’re undergoing renovations at the moment, and have only four bar stools propped up at the fish counter. They’re booked out weeks in advance. But somehow, Luce and I managed to talk our way into a pair of seats. I dashed across the road to get a bottle of fizz, and we ate our way through oysters, John Dory ceviche with apple and crab, tuna carpaccio and soft shell crab in tempura. It was bliss.
It was also the first time I’ve eaten crab since last year, when I made this dish from The Bell Jar. After visiting Billingsgate Market last June, and taking two live brown crabs home with me for less than £5, I vowed never to buy picked crabmeat again. The thing is though; going to Billingsgate is an event. It involves getting up before 4am on a Saturday. And now that I’m in South London, it’s even more of a faff on public transport. The reason you pay more at a fishmonger is because they’re doing the “getting up early and travelling on a night bus at dawn” bit for you. So I’m biting the bullet and buying some crabmeat, so I can make this very summery salad again.
A couple of tips:
If you’re buying a live crab, I found these instructions helpful.
And, to avoid the food poisoning that this dish causes in The Bell Jar, do keep your crabmeat in the fridge, rather than under powerful lights.

‘To avoid the food poisoning that this dish causes in The Bell Jar, do keep your crabmeat in the fridge.’ You have been warned. Photograph: Kate Young

Crab, avocado and mayonnaise: the recipe


Serves 2 as a generous starter
Ingredients

1 large brown crab (about 1.5kg) or 200g white crab meat
1 spring onion
About 15 parsley leaves
About 20 fronds of dill
1tbsp plain yoghurt
Sprinkle of sea salt
Grinding of black pepper
Squeeze of lemon

Mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
1tsp lemon juice
1/2tsp hot English mustard
125ml olive oil

Equipment

Collection of tools for taking apart a crab – including a hammer and a skewer 
Mixing bowl
Whisk

Knife and chopping board





‘Going to Billingsgate [fish market] is an event. It involves getting up before 4am on a Saturday.’ Photograph: Kate Young

1 Place your crab upside down on the table in front of you. To get at the white meat, twist the legs and claws off the body. Work with them one by one. Crack their shells with the hammer, and pull the meat out, then set it aside. The claws have a significant amount of meat in them, so make sure you crack each part, and use a skewer to get into the crevices.
2 You don’t need the brown meat for this recipe but, to access it, keep the crab facing belly-up. Place your thumbs under the base of the centre piece of the shell and push up. The body will come out. Discard the white gills and scoop out the brown meat. Set aside for use in another recipe.
3 To make the mayonnaise, whisk the egg yolk until thick and creamy. Whisk in the lemon juice and mustard, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Very slowly add the oil to the yolk, whisking continuously. Keep your eye on the oil, rather than the mayonnaise, and don’t let it pour out too quickly. You just want a couple of drops every few seconds. Once the mayonnaise has started to thicken, you can pour a little faster. Continue whisking until you have used most of the oil and the mayonnaise is very thick.
4 Finely chop the spring onion, parsley and dill. Combine the crabmeat, two tablespoons of the mayonnaise and the yoghurt, herbs and spring onion in a bowl. Taste for seasoning.



‘Arrayed on the Ladies’ Day banquet table were yellow-green avocado pear halves stuffed with crabmeat and mayonnaise, and platters of rare roast beef and cold chicken, and every so often a cut-glass bowl heaped with black caviar’ ... Sylvia Plath’s words. Photograph: Kate Young
5 Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and peel off the skin. Take a small slice off the base of the avocado, so it will sit on the serving plate with a bit of stability. Spoon a generous amount of the crab mixture into the hole left by the shell. Squeeze some lemon over the top and serve. With a martini, of course.





Saturday, January 13, 2018

Non Blondes / What's Up



Non Blondes 

What's Up


Twenty-five years and my life is still Trying to get up that great big hill of hope For a destination I realized quickly when I knew I should That the world was made up of this brotherhood of man For whatever that means And so I cry sometimes When I'm lying in bed just to get it all out What's in my head And I, I am feeling a little peculiar And so I wake in the morning And I step outside And I take a deep breath and I get real high And I scream from the top of my lungs What's going on? And I say, hey yeah yeah, hey yeah yeah I said hey, what's going on? And I say, hey yeah yeah, hey yeah yeah I said hey, what's going on? Oh, oh oh Oh, oh oh And I try, oh my god do I try I try all the time, in this institution And I pray, oh my god do I pray I pray…




Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sylvia Plath / The Bell Jar / Review




The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath - review


‘234 pages of pure brilliance’

W
orking in New York one summer, Esther Greenwood is a young, intelligent women on the edge of greatness. Though the ambition she once had to achieve her dreams (the ones which won her the awards, the prizes, the grades) have faded into a distant memory and she’s barely drifting along.

With the pressure of marriage and the passé New York night life, what will become of Esther Greenwood?
The classic, semi-autobiographical (though, the more you learn about the novel and author, the more autobiographical it seems to become) novel by Sylvia Plath is 234 pages of pure brilliance. It gives us a meaningful insight into the thoughts of Plath and the complete isolation one can feel when in a city (though there are so many people, as they all seem to pass the person by completely). The book also shows an interesting, sadly relatable, idea of ambition; how the character started from nothing, had to work her whole life up until getting a scholarship to a college and finds herself in New York and then completely loses all of her drive, ambition and passion. She can’t write or properly read any more (things she once loved) and this is fed by how easy everything is for her; her grades meet all the requirements but don’t fill the emptiness that resonates within her.
The novel also takes on the role of women in society (the expectations of them, ideas of what society tells us women should prioritise, such as marriage and children - all things the Esther seems to come to resent as the novel continues), along with a young woman’s exploration of her sexuality. Materialism is also a subject Plath addresses (the people around her, the gifts she receives) through the interesting idea of how the character Esther was so easily able to give it all up: the clothes, the lifestyle, and the money.
The Bell Jar is not just a classic piece of fiction (though so out of the box for its time), but also a novel that will continue to resonate with people throughout time as it talks of problems and classic faults with human nature that will always persist. I give it 4.5 out of 5 for being able to so clearly represent not only women in society but the truth of mental illness.



Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The 100 best novels / No 85 / The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1966)




The 100 best novels: No 85 – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1966)



Sylvia Plath’s painfully graphic roman à clef, in which a woman struggles with her identity in the face of social pressure, is a key text of Anglo-American feminism

Robert McCrum
Monday 4 May 2015 05.45 BST



Sylvia Plath’s only novel was originally published in January 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, and became tangled up almost immediately in the drama of her suicide, to the book’s detriment among the critics. However, republished under Plath’s own name in 1966, it became a modern classic.
“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” After this brittle, dangerous introduction to the summer of 1953, we meet Esther Greenwood who is, she tells us, “supposed to be having the time of my life”. It’s a theme that, 40 years on, would become commercialised, even satirised, in Sex and the City.
But, in the age of Mad Men, Esther/Sylvia is far too driven, damaged and/or neurotic, and with too much emotional baggage, to have a ball in Manhattan. The story of her life and times, however, is told with blistering honesty, and a vivid attention to detail. It’s a raw, unsettling book with flashes of brilliance, a roman à clef that’s also a long, tormented footnote to Plath’s tormented poetry.
Plath herself had won an internship at Mademoiselle in New York City in 1953, and her painfully autobiographical novel draws heavily on her experience. The reader discovers, in flashbacks, why Esther cannot give herself wholeheartedly to her new life in the city. With hindsight, it’s easy to pick up the smell of death from Esther’s account. Hardly a page goes by without a reference to a dead baby, a cadaver, or her late father (“dead since I was nine”). The other man in her life, Yale boyfriend Buddy Willard, troubles her spirit in other ways, too.
Plath’s essential theme, a staccato drumbeat, is Esther’s obsession with the opposite sex. At first, released from her mother’s repressive scrutiny, she decides to lose her virginity (a “millstone around my neck”) to Constantin, a UN Russian translator, but he’s too sensible to fall for her. Then, having failed on another date, in which she is labelled a “slut”, she hurls her clothes off her hotel roof, and returns home for a suicidal summer, a worsening depression which she compares to suffocating under a “bell jar”. Esther’s predicament, more generally, is how to develop a mature identity, as a woman, and to be true to that self rather than conform to societal norms. It’s this quest that makes The Bell Jar a founding text of Anglo-American feminism.
Eventually, as Esther spirals lower, with successive suicide attempts, she is given shock treatment (ECT), echoing the Rosenbergs’ fate, in horrifying scenes, graphically described. Finally, another doctor gives her the longed-for diaphragm. “The next step,” says Esther, “was to find the proper sort of man.” Irwin, the maths professor, of course, turns out to be just the opposite, and the consequences of their intercourse dominate the final pages of the book until beautiful and well-adjusted Dr Nolan begins to steer Esther back to sanity, and a return to college.

A note on the text

In her journal for December 1958, Plath lists what she calls Main Questions, including: “What to do with hate for mother? Why don’t I write a novel?” After this latter question, she later added, in her own handwriting: “I have! August 22, 1961: THE BELL JAR.” Elsewhere, Ted Hughes has also confirmed that Plath began to write her only novel in 1961, completing it after the couple’s separation in 1962. In other words, The Bell Jar was written fast and urgently.
Plath told her mother that “What I’ve done is to throw together events from my own life, fictionalising to add colour – it’s a potboiler really, but I think it will show how isolated a person feels when he is suffering a breakdown… I’ve tried to picture my world and the people in it as seen through the distorting lens of a bell jar.”
She also described the book as “an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from the past”. At first, it was composed as part of the Eugene F Saxton Fellowship, a programme affiliated with the New York publisher Harper & Row whose immediate response to the manuscript was one of disappointment, after which Plath was free to offer it to publishers in London.
William Heinemann published The Bell Jar in London on 14 January 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, a strategy inspired by her desire to spare the feelings of both her mother and a number of real-life characters in the novel, notably Buddy Willard (Dick Norton). Plath killed herself in her London flat, 23 Fitzroy Road, near Primrose Hill, less than a month later, on 11 February 1963.

Three more from Sylvia Plath


The Colossus (1960); Ariel (1965); Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (1977).
The Bell Jar is published by Faber in hardback (£12.99) and paperback (£7.99).

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Kirsten Dunst to direct The Bell Jar starring Dakota Fanning


Kirsten Dunst

Kirsten Dunst to direct The Bell Jar starring Dakota Fanning


The Melancholia actor is to make her directorial debut with a version of Sylvia Plath’s 1963 novel

Kirsten Dunst is to make her debut as a director with an adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.
Dakota Fanning has been announced in the lead role of Esther Greenwood, a young woman who takes an internship at a magazine in New York before suffering a breakdown and returning home to Boston.


Written just before Plath’s suicide aged 30, and first published under a pen name a month after her death, the book is often assumed to be semi-autographical.

Dakota Fanning
It was first adapted for the big screen in 1979, starring Marilyn Hassett. In 2003, Gwyneth Paltrow played Plath in a biopic which covered the writing of The Bell Jar.

Dunst has co-written the film with Nellie Kim, while Fanning is a co-producer; shooting is scheduled to begin in early 2017.
Dunst has previously directed two short films, Welcome, which premiered at Sundance, and Bastard, which screened at Tribeca and Cannes. Most recently seen in Jeff Nichols’s Midnight Special, she is not expected to act in The Bell Jar.




Thursday, January 4, 2018

Poster poems from EU's new members



Poster poems from EU's new members


Now someone else has had what seems an even dafter idea: poems by foreigners in NHS waiting rooms. And the Foreign Office has welcomed it with open arms.
Next Saturday thousands of international dignitaries will find posters of 10 poems by foreigners on display at a grand open day staged by the Foreign Office in London to celebrate the accession of 10 states to the EU on May 1.
The verse that will most directly remind the guests of tensions in Europe is Kamil Peteraj's Tomorrow Can Be Too Late, from Slovakia, with its undertones of ethnic cleansing: "I'm shouting/ and I'll wake up my neighbours/ and tell them/ shout as well/ and wake up your neighbours/ and tell those neighbours/ to shout too/ because tomorrow can be too late ..."

Niki Marangou's poem Roses is about the Greek Cypriot character and the sadness of living on a divided island: "I have planted .../ the centifolia from the house in mourning at Ayios Thomas/ the sixty-petalled rose Midas brought from Phrygia ..."
The other countries featured are Lithuania, the Czech republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland and Slovenia.
The Foreign Office joined the Arts Council and NHS Services in funding the posters after the Europe minister, Denis MacShane, seized on them as a way of increasing British awareness of the accession states.

Yesterday Rogan Wolf, the British poet who worked on the texts with the editor and poet Fiona Sampson and put the proposal to Mr MacShane, said: "It's a way of trying to make people less suspicious of foreigners. It's an easy way of introducing them to the experiences of people from other countries. By doing it through NHS posters, you talk to a lot of people."

THE GUARDIAN



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ben Lerner / The experience of being a poet writing a novel




Ben Lerner
THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING 
A POET WRITING A NOVEL

An Interview with Ben Lerner

Ben Lerner is the author of three poetry collections: The Lichtenberg Figures (2004), Angle of Yaw (2006), and Mean Free Path (2010). In 2011, his first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, was released by Coffee House Press. The Poetry Society asked him about the experience of being a poet writing a novel.
* * *



In Leaving the Atocha Station, the protagonist, Adam Gordon, is a young poet living in Spain on fellowship money. Adam grapples with doubts about the usefulness of poetry—and art in general—within the format of the novel. Did you feel  that you had to leave the medium of poetry to talk about that medium? And what made you choose to write a novel, rather than, say, a critical essay?

Poetry is pretty good at talking about the medium of poetry, can't not talk about it on some level, so I don't think I generally feel one has to leave the genre to criticize or celebrate it, but I did become interested in the novel as a vehicle for meditations on poetry, what the specific opportunities afforded by that distance might be. A major theme of the novel is the gap between Poetry with a capital "P"—the virtual possibilities of the art, the immense claims traditionally made for those possibilities—and actual poems, which to a certain extent must always betray the abstract potential of the medium the second they become merely real. Leaving the medium of poetry to talk about poetry was a way of keeping in contact with the virtual—a way of analyzing or flirting with the poetic without producing actual poems. At one point in the novel Adam Gordon talks about how he finds poetry most beautiful when it's quoted in prose—line breaks replaced with slashes—because it's not an actual poem, but has the glimmer of poetic possibility. A poem in a novel, or the idea of poetry in a novel, can similarly glimmer, I think. 

My thinking and language about all of this was very influenced by essays by Allen Grossman and his former student, Michael Clune. And an essay I wrote on John Ashbery for boundary 2 was one source for the novel. But what a critical essay can't really do is dramatize how these ideas infect or animate other areas of experience. The novel can build a character and a world in which a critical concept ramifies into a life, into the social. "Adam Gordon" is concerned not just with the tension between the abstract and the concrete in poetry, but also with his relationships with people, drugs, politics, etc. I did feel I had to leave poetry and the essay for the novel in order to render all of that live.

Despite or maybe because of Adam's anxieties about poetry's fraudulence in general and his own fraudulence in particular, poetry pervades the text. Reading and writing are a matter of course, and Adam's internal argument about mediation and communication spins along behind the action. It's a novel that doesn't for a moment forget art, which seems unusual and even brave—certainly I've been warned in workshops against writing about writing, as though mentioning that the poem is a poem will break the spell. Was this a concern? Are there special difficulties in writing about art?

I don't think you can not write about writing, or paint about painting, or make films about films—if the work is recognizable as a genre of writing or painting or film, it's already doing things that claim that status, fulfilling or strategically disappointing expectations that attend the medium, that are part of the medium. I guess that's acknowledged in the idea that a spell has to be cast in order to make a reader forget that fact. And I guess one could say that if art is always already about art the risk is redundancy or a level of self-reflexivity that cancels other potential pleasures and inquiries. I didn't experience that worry with this novel because it's largely about that worry—it's interested in mediation, whether the mediator is art or Zoloft or Spanish or the internet, and so it dramatizes the blurriness of the border of art and life, aesthetic experience and the aestheticization of experience. This is a very traditional novelistic concern, I think.

Your narrator Adam's anxieties about language are highlighted by the way he both doubts his Spanish, and invests extra meanings in things he and others say. "I formed several possible stories out of her speech, formed them at once, so it was less like I failed to understand than I understood in chords, understood in a plurality of worlds." This could almost be a description of how to understand poetry, holding several possibilities in the mind at once. Do you think of Adam as "reading" reality like a poem?

Yes, he claims to relate to reality on the model of one way of reading poems—a reading that thinks that ambiguity or indeterminacy or polysemy are what keep artworks from being finished, real, closed, and so, in a sense, dead. His experience of being adrift in a language is sometimes terrifying for him and sometimes a source of erotic and semantic possibility. But this causes all sorts of problems, because what he reads into conversation is often not there and because what he believes others read into his conversation is often inaccurate.  And because he believes that the failures of his Spanish are what enrich his social interactions, his relationships with Spanish-speakers actually depend on his not becoming fluent. So as the novel progresses the acquisition of fluency is a threat to the world he's constructing, not a way of entering it more fully. I think Adam is particularly unreliable as a reporter on his own level of fluency. One way to think of the book might be as a collision of an ars poetica with a Bildungsroman.

The obvious question, but one that holds a certain fascination for poets: how did you think the process of writing a novel differed from the process of writing poetry? Maybe you could compare it to your narrator's writing process. Do you think Adam is typical of a poet?

I had all of these really basic realizations about novel writing with the force of revelation. It was kind of embarrassing. Things like: editing a novel is different because you can't easily reread the book every time you want to make a change. I couldn't hold all the language in my mind the way I could if I was working on a poem in Mean Free Path, for instance. Even stranger and more disquieting for me was how someone would suggest I change the syntax of a particular sentence and I might be startled to realize I didn't always have a strong opinion about which of two grammatical formulations was superior. This is because in a narrative there are certain sentences whose job is to disappear into the story, there are moments in which the self-effacement of language is a virtue, and if the goal of a sentence is to melt into air, that sometimes relieves a certain kind of pressure on its construction. I assume this is related to the "spell" we talked about earlier—how to make the language disappear. What I'm saying is sacrilege for poetry; think of how Silliman's influential "New Sentence" is all about arresting the dematerialization of language into higher orders of meaning. (Maybe writing a novel about art is a way to have it both ways: to make the reader forget the materiality of language as it dissolves into narrative but then to make them remember that they're forgetting via artifice as theme).  I am in a hurry to say I don't at all mean I didn't sweat over all the prose, revise and revise again, but just that some of the sweating was about the inapplicability of a set of compositional instincts when the priority of certain passages of writing was narrative over and against the texture of the language itself. This notion of poetry as language at its most material and prose as language that disappears into the action of its syntax is something Adam Gordon talks about, and thinking through the difference between a poem and a novel enters the novel itself:

"I came to realize that far more important to me than any plot or conventional sense was the sheer directionality I felt while reading prose, the texture of time as it passed, life's white machine. Even in the most dramatic scenes, when Natasha is suddenly beside him or whatever, what moved me most was less the pathos of the reunion and his passing than the action of prepositions, conjunctions, etc.; the sweep of predication was more compelling than the predicated. Reading poetry, if reading is even the word, was something else entirely. Poetry actively repelled my attention, it was opaque and thingly and refused to absorb me; its articles and conjunctions and prepositions failed to dissolve into a feeling and a speed; you could fall into the spaces between words as you tried to link them up; and yet by refusing to absorb me the poem held out the possibility of a higher form of absorption of which I was unworthy, a profound experience unavailable from within the damaged life, and so the poem became a figure for its outside."

Last but not least, will you write another?

I have no idea.





Sunday, December 31, 2017

Kathleen Jamie / Moon



Moon
by Kathleen Jamie
Last night, when the moon
slipped into my attic-room
as an oblong of light,
I sensed she’d come to commiserate.
It was August. She travelled
with a small valise
of darkness, and the first few stars
returning to the northern sky,
and my room, it seemed,
had missed her. She pretended
an interest in the bookcase
while other objects
stirred, as in a rockpool,
with unexpected life:
strings of beads in their green bowl gleamed,
the paper-crowded desk;
the books, too, appeared inclined
to open and confess.
Being sure the moon
harboured some intention,
I waited; watched for an age
her cool glaze shift
first toward a flower sketch
pinned on the far wall
then glide to recline
along the pinewood floor
before I’d had enough. Moon,
I said, we’re both scarred now.
Are they quite beyond you,the simple words of love? Say them.You are not my mother;with my mother, I waited unto death.
 from The Overhaul  (Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2015)                                                                         
Jamie, KathleenKathleen Jamie’s The Overhaul, which won the Costa Prize for Poetry in 2012, has recently been published in the USA. These mid-life poems are deceptively simple, less ebullient than some of her earlier work – the feisty poems of The Queen of Sheba gave voice to a generation of Scottish women not prepared to be subdued; more conversational, full of questions. Thrifty with words when confronted by spendthrift nature, ‘Her poetry is to be admired as one might a winter garden for its outline, clarity and light’, wrote the Observer reviewer; ‘Reading the collection is, on one level, the equivalent of taking a Scottish walk, observing birds, deer, sheep and the sea.’
Jamie lives in Fife, and is Chair of the Creative Writing programme at the University of Stirling.Her fine essay collections, like her poetry, examine  with lyrical acuity the way humans dwell in, delight in and despoil the natural world. She is rarely as self-referential as in The Overhaul. The last lines of ‘Moon’ surprise us with their buried feeling brought to light, their deeply Presbyterian tone.

Robyn Marsack






Saturday, December 30, 2017

Meg Bateman / Allegory



Allegory

by Meg Bateman


On the single track roads in the Highlands
we seek each other’s eyes,
giving way to some,
beckoned through by others,
in a slow, supple dance.
But down goes my foot where the double track starts
as I swing away at twice – three times – the speed,
aware of nothing  but my own thoughts,
driving free, without hindrance.
Rarely need I pull in
for another to pass,
rarely does another wave back.
from Transparencies (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2013)
Image1
Meg Bateman’s first collection , Aotromachd /Lightness, made a stir when it was published in 1997. Here was a writer in Gaelic, not a native speaker (she  studied Gaelic at Aberdeen University and began to write her own poetry in that language), speaking of intimate subjects in a voice that was full of insecurity and yet boldly challenged the received view of Gaelic poetry – certainly as it was received by an English-speaking audience.
Anyone who has driven in the Highlands knows what Bateman, who lives on Skye, is describing in this poem, the decisions and the courtesies of negotiating a single-track road. But close communities, whether linguistic or physical,  are also confining: we can read the poem as an allegory of island life, even of Scottish life; of  choosing to write in Gaelic (for a community of less than 60,000 readers) or English.
Mostly self-translated, Bateman’s poetry  evokes both the timeless and the contemporary: love and disposable diapers. Carol Rumens has remarked: ‘The poems have the strength and simplicity of art made for a community rather than an elite, though they are far from artless.’

Robyn Marsack